He wouldn’t go so far as to say the whole region was lifeless, but Galatea mansion - for whatever that title was worth, in its dilapidated state - was a sad sight to see.
It was hard not to think of the full scope of the place as he knew it. He had always been aware of Galatea as the ugly stepsibling of the other far-North powers; it came through in subtle ways that built up over time, from how seldom his family was invited there (as contrasted with Fraldarius or even the ancestral Blaiddyd lands) to the hasty engagement between Ingrid and Glenn. Still, from the look of the lands, the death throes of its ruling family had hardly affected the people of the territory; only the family’s mansion, haunted by ghosts of familiar childish laughter and paintings of beautiful, green-eyed nobles, seemed to remember the Galateas at all.
Sylvain wondered whether the territory would be renamed once Edelgard at last selected a new Count. The mansion would no doubt be theirs, and as far as Sylvain had come from days of lingering regret, something inside him still stung at the thought of all those paintings being taken down, of the Crest of Daphnel being overwritten by some newly minted coat of arms.
His thoughts briefly flitted over potential options - Caspar, maybe? Dorothea or Ladislava? - before he decided the thought was too painful. He lingered in the front hall, looking around and tapping his foot, and deflated around a sigh.
Chances were that this would be his final visit. The family’s affairs were as settled as he could make them, and Goddess knew he couldn’t stand to see whatever tasteless crap the new retainer would throw up in place of generations of House Galatea’s memories.
He drew in one final breath of stale air before wrenching open the front door and exiting. If memories had ever meant anything to him, he wouldn’t have aimed to kill when Ingrid had swooped down a little too close.
Never mind any of that. He stormed down the front pathway between lichen-rotted stone statues and overgrown topiaries and finally, finally left the gardens, only a short walk away from town, from people, from living flesh instead of cold, dead air. The air itself felt warm, warmer at least than he was accustomed to in Gautier. It called to mind memories of asking his father why they didn’t visit Galatea more often, when that dry heat from proximity to Ailell was so much kinder than the wet heat they sustained in Gautier summers.
Enough of that.
There was a sizable cluster of people on the bridge across the river and Sylvain slowed as he approached, listening in, curious and desperate for a distraction. A few awed gasps escaped from deeper in the cluster and he took advantage of his height to peer over a few gawking heads.
Steel glinted and some reared back in surprise as a sword flew into the air, snatched out of its freefall by a graceful hand. Sylvain sighed, feeling his heart sink; just a swordplay showcase. Even if he hadn’t been so weary of the arts of war, he was too well-acquainted in this particular art to be impressed by some peasant dancing for his dinner.
He was just turning to leave when he heard an oddly familiar voice call, “Hey, don’t be shy! Give our star performer a tip!”
Sylvain had to stop in his tracks to process that voice, to sort through the disparate elements commanding his attention. That lively lilt, that soft hint of a rasp…
He turned again and pushed through to the front of the crowd just in time to watch a lithe, familiar form land a backflip and turn, both arms extended out to his sides, cutting circles with the shining, ornamental blades. Those weren’t real wo dao, Sylvain could tell that much - these were built flimsier on purpose so that the blades would shudder dangerously with each purposeful thrust, glinting with the strike of the afternoon sun on the steel and echoing a warped sound.
Felix landed in a firm stance and reared back, each movement circular, elegant, a push and a pull that he had learned with years upon years of repetitive practice. The dancer’s uniform fit him just as it had when they were students, the flash and chatter of metal at his belt, if anything, more prominent against the faded fabrics he wore.
Where Sylvain had grown soft, Felix was still slim, almost feline, and dangerously beautiful. It showed in how he stalked sideways, showboating for his audience - Sylvain had never thought he’d see the day - and arched backwards, executing another perfect backflip, heedless of how his skirts flew upward to expose well-muscled legs.
He was going to be a mercenary. That was all the pitiful information Sylvain had been offered before Felix had disappeared into the wind with Leonie in tow; he was going to carry on honing his craft, fighting wherever he was needed. He had, in typical Felix fashion, made it sound gory, thankless, only tailored to suit his own self-interest, and in the ensuing years Sylvain and his remaining friends had spun speculations into thin air of what secret, noble pursuits Felix might have been protecting.
And here he was, resplendent in dirty, almost fifteen-year-old clothes, wielding fake fucking swords while an audience of commoners called out moves like they knew anything.
Felix danced with his swords and Sylvain thought of the blade he still hid beneath his bed back home, cold steel that he had polished mindlessly on nights when he had missed Felix until he was damn near out of his mind. He thought of all the nights he wondered, briefly, whether it would all be better if he just found himself a wife to keep him distracted from such obsessions, only to curse and punish himself for even thinking of betraying Felix’s memory that way.
This was Felix, dancing expertly while Leonie circled the crowd, cajoling people for their coin. Felix had spent his entire life building himself into one thing, and that was a sword, a cold, unfeeling piece of metal, and look where that had landed him.
Cold and unfeeling. Was that how Felix felt, twirling prettily under so many gazes? There can’t have been any shortage of people who saw his slender, feral beauty beneath those gauzy sheets of fabric and decided they wanted to claim him for themselves. Had Felix been as cold and unfeeling laying with them as he’d been blushingly asking Sylvain whether they could take it slow?
Something was building behind Sylvain’s gaze, perhaps tears. How dare Felix come back to Faerghus? How dare he come to Galatea, after all he had wrought?
He could very well have asked himself the same question.
Amber flashed under the late afternoon sun, and then flashed again. For the first time ever, Sylvain saw Felix drop his sword.
“Felix?” Leonie perked up, then followed his gaze. To her credit, though she wasn’t the one performing, her reaction time had clearly not slowed at all; in seconds, she was scooping up all of her extant belongings, including the purse she’d held out to collect spare coins, and announcing above the disappointed groans of the audience that the showcase was over. Felix, too, had hardly so much as slowed a step - the finesse with which he passed out of sight, weaving between onlookers to lose his tail, would surely have tricked any less keen an eye.
But Sylvain had spent years upon years memorizing the shapes Felix’s limbs carved when they moved, and he was not one to be fooled - especially when Leonie stumbled after him, clutching her own smattering of bows and poorly-crafted lances.
And how had Felix maintained his stealth at such an impressive level? By stealing? By escaping local law enforcement? No matter which possibilities Sylvain considered, something compelled him to think the worst of the one he once had loved. It had always been one of his own worst qualities, that.
He kept pace with the pair, zeroing in on Leonie’s bright hair rather than Felix’s darker locks to center himself in the dispersing crowd; once he reached the bridge’s landfall, he at last took pause.
It figured they’d disappear into the same inn he’d reserved a room at. He heaved a sigh, then decided to wait a moment before entering, himself.
They didn’t need to know he was staying there, too - at least not for now. He cast a glance at the chalkboard and nodded to himself, making note of the dinner times; if they were ponying up to stay at the same place Sylvain was, they likely would be eating at the cheapest rates in the area.
Felix had plenty of talents, but Sylvain had always been the strategist.
He waited around in the tavern attached to the inn, nursing a drink and stewing in his resentment; with any luck, Felix would dine before Leonie, but there was no discounting the idea that he might suspect Sylvain was staying there and ask her to scope the place out before he came down.
It didn’t matter. Leonie didn’t fucking scare him.
That was another thought that inevitably ground on his nerves, to finally think it without forcing it down. Whatever hers and Felix’s relationship really was, Leonie was more his enemy than Ingrid or Dimitri had ever been. The amount of times he’d thought of her, of what he would do and say for stealing Felix away -
She’d better hope Felix came down before she did.
Time passed. Sylvain took his lonesome dinner, hardly tasting a single bite of it, brooding in a corner of the tavern and watching the doorway into the inn intently; Leonie didn’t come, but someone else eventually did, just ahead of what would soon become the dinner rush. Felix had always lived his life shifted a little earlier than the rest: he got up early, no matter what the class-mandated training schedule required of him. It stood to reason that he’d arrive sooner than most, even now.
He wasn’t in the dancer’s uniform anymore. He was actually dressed quite subtly, to disappear - dim, dusty breeches and a bulkier, hooded overgarment that concealed the upper half of his figure, however poorly his trousers did the same for his lower half.
Always the unintentional slut, Felix. It was enough to curl his lip - in amusement or disgust, Sylvain couldn’t say.
Felix stepped toward the buffet without hesitating or glancing around, and that prompted more of the same. How charming, Sylvain thought, that he’d grown so accustomed to peace that he no longer bothered with the sort of hypervigilance that had characterized his teenage years. How disturbing, too, when he had professed himself to be such a brutal killing machine.
Better for Sylvain, though. It meant that, hulking as his own form had become, it was all too easy to walk right up to him and grip his upper arm hard enough to hurt. Felix didn’t look up, and that made Sylvain wonder whether he had seen him as he’d entered the room and just been heartless enough to pretend as if he didn’t know the significance of him being there.
“I’d like to show you my room,” Sylvain said, disturbed at how easily he made himself friendly, slipped into his old, familiar flirtatious tone all while clutching Felix’s arm in a crushing grip. “What do you say?”
Eye contact had never been Felix’s forte. He spoke to his bowl, filled with some meaty brown stew. “I wouldn’t force me, if I were you.”
“Really?” Sylvain countered, and he leaned down, still spelling sex with his posture, and whispered in Felix’s ear. “It looks to me like one of us has lots of power, and one of us doesn’t. Especially if big bad Margrave Gautier tells his men you picked his pocket.”
He watched Felix’s eyelashes fall and rise past the curve of his cheek, and at last, Felix snuck a glance at him. Was it terrible of him, Sylvain wondered, that that first contact from those wide, fearful eyes made his cock twitch?
Felix set his bowl down. When Sylvain pulled, he went wordlessly, his gaze turned downward like he didn’t trust his feet to carry him to their destination without supervision. When Sylvain dragged him into the quieter inn hallway, he made a brief bid for freedom - just a tug at his arm, quickly forfeit when Sylvain crushed it even harder, shaking with anger.
He had never once been so peaceable in their youth, and it made Sylvain seethe.
Felix’s breath caught audibly in his throat as Sylvain yanked him around, drawing to an abrupt halt adjacent to his room; he scrounged in his pocket for his room key, lost his patience, and kicked the door. It swung open undisturbed, piece of shit.
He hardly had the door closed behind them before Felix tried again, tore himself from Sylvain’s hands and surged into his chest. It was a move that would’ve winded him during school, but that was when Sylvain had been clipping his own wings, trying to deny his own strength; he had become more solid since, broader, and when Felix stumbled back it was a simple thing to grab his wrist and stretch it above him, forcing Felix to his tiptoes, daring those wide, terrified eyes to meet his own.
“I should’ve fucking known,” Sylvain spat. Felix spat for real, and Sylvain slammed him into the wall.
“What?” Felix snapped, voice acquiver, clearly fighting to get back to the dominant position as far as this conversation was concerned. “Are you going to rape me?”
Sylvain cocked his head. “Wouldn’t be out of character, would it? Thief of virtue, in the flesh,” he drawled.
“You were never as bad as you claimed.”
“Speak for yourself.” Exhausted of toying with him, Sylvain dropped Felix’s wrist - and before he could get anywhere, he clapped a hand onto his shoulder and pushed irresistibly down. When Felix dropped to his knees, Sylvain caged him against the wall with his, fiddling with the buttons at his groin until he lost patience and tore his trousers open - disgusted, in a distant sort of way, with how hard he was. He buried that thought under the satisfaction of at last seeing Felix’s eyes land on his cock.
Sylvain taunted him, relishing the faintest of quivers he saw in Felix’s shoulders, “How do I measure up?”
Felix glanced up at him, then downward and away. “What?”
“You know, Felix. I’m sure the part where you whored yourself out was more than just figurative - dancing during the day, dancing at night, eh?”
That brought the fury back, thank the goddess - or really, thank the flames. “I never sold myself!”
Sylvain lunged, but Felix seemed to catch the movement - he glued his lips shut, biting them closed before Sylvain could penetrate. Sylvain grabbed at his chin before he could stop himself, pulling at him, trying to force his thumb between his jaws and pry his mouth open.
When he couldn’t, tortured by Felix’s silently smug expression, he pushed him back in frustration. Felix grunted with the impact of his shoulders on the wall, but Sylvain was beyond caring at this point - instead, he tore Felix’s cape from his shoulders and ripped the shirt underneath open, at last forcing a gasp from Felix’s lips.
“Always liked these better than your mouth, anyway,” Sylvain said, groping harshly at Felix’s little tits. They were much as he remembered, if a little more saggy - but that was to be expected, with as many years of binding under his belt as there were on top of his age. Felix, for his part, winced with the first pinch of either nipple, still holding himself to stoicism. “Your mouth has dealt me plenty of pain, but I’d never hold that against your boobs.”
To say the fight was gone from Felix’s body would have been a lie, but something changed with that statement. When Sylvain slid his cock between Felix’s breasts, he resisted - of course he resisted - but there was something mournful in his eyes now, a tension, a doubt.
But Sylvain didn’t care about that anymore. He squeezed each little pillow of flesh between his palms, thrust hard enough to hit Felix’s chin, and carried on thrusting, caring only for the visual of puffy, inverted brown nipples on ghostly pale skin and of the hot red blush creeping blotchily down from his face.
Felix drew in a high, pained breath. Sylvain realized that it was a sob.
Felix’s head was tilted back, not so much in pleasure or in joy. His eyes were closed. When they peeked open, it was all the more unbearable for it, because the sight of Felix crying was still painfully familiar after all these years.
He wasn’t an ugly crier - he was too well-practiced for that. Sylvain doubted nonetheless that he would have been considered a pretty one in anyone else’s eyes but his.
Still, the way Felix bowed his head after that briefest of eye contact carried with it a kind of perversion. Sylvain hadn’t had any illusions about this, ever since their brief romantic connection during the war; he liked seeing Felix cry, because goddess knew he had never seen him half so vulnerable since he’d decided he’d run out of tears.
The knowledge didn’t make him any more comfortable for it. He watched the tears on their way down Felix’s cheeks, the first silent tears he’d seen him shed. Even as a child, he’d never been a silent crier - only a boisterous one.
“What?!” he barked, just to cut through the silence, and for a moment his only reply was the harshness of Felix’s breath.
“Sylvain,” Felix said, and somehow, though he’d barely been immersed in his own pleasure, that was enough - enough to coat Felix’s bright-red face in vertical bars of white, to draw all the breath from Sylvain’s lungs and make him fall forward, resting his forehead on the wall as he caught up with his own body.
His ecstasy wasn’t ecstatic - his satisfaction wasn’t satisfying. He felt it, certainly, but perhaps the same way he would have felt it if he were reading a book about having an orgasm. There was a clear degree of separation between himself and his pleasure.
But there was no separation between himself and the deadened, sorrowful look in Felix’s eyes, and that was precisely the problem. It had always been so easy to separate himself out from his chosen toy’s pleasure or pain or indifference, but now, when it was most imperative that he do precisely that -
So when he drew Felix bonelessly upward and threw him on the bed, it was facedown. He climbed up and pinned Felix down and the most he had to see when he tore Felix’s trousers down over his petite but pert rear was the back of his head, framed by his own cum smeared over the sheets.
Fortunately, Felix’s eyes weren’t the only part of him that was soaking wet.
Sylvain purred wordlessly, playing idly in Felix’s juices for a moment - this, he could contend with. Focus on the physical.
“More aroused by this than you give yourself credit for, eh?” he taunted him, at last feeling as if he were back in the saddle, back in control. He slid two fingers in, easy, easy, as if they belonged there. “You can pretend all you like, but your body tells me everything I need to know.”
Felix’s breath hissed inward and outward against the bedding. It didn’t matter, Sylvain told himself - he’d had shy partners before. None of this mattered.
His heart beat punishingly into his throat as he sheathed himself inside Felix, ever aware of the boniness of his hips where he gripped them, calling to mind however many hungry nights he must have spent in his absence. It contrasted the full-body shudder of his own girth rippling with each thrust, gained from endless nights of indulgence and of visits to Sreng and being, fortunately, shamelessly well-fed.
And how much had Felix had to beg before he’d landed on dancing? How much had he fucked around, how much had he starved, and how hard had he and Leonie leaned on each other, determined to live on pride and stubbornness instead of coming to him for help he would certainly have given?
He smacked Felix’s ass, trying to snap himself out of it. At least one part of him still jiggled, and no doubt his breasts were a vision, slack and dangling from his body.
That was what he needed - goddess, that was what he needed. That was what he should have had these last ten years of peace, that was what Felix had so cruelly deprived him of. He bent forward as he carried on fucking, draping himself over him, reminding Felix with every hard breath pulled from his lungs of who he was and how he’d changed, wrapping his arms around him and squeezing brutally at either breast.
And Felix’s breath was - it was more and less uniform, edging out of him in yelps now rather than sobs, bordering on pleasure -
“Sylvain,” Felix begged then, and Sylvain knew.
“Fuck,” he gasped, squeezing harder with his right hand, feeling Felix’s shoulder jerk against his own padded chest. He was faintly aware of Felix’s knees nudging themselves apart, straining against his waistband. He was more aware than ever of Felix’s slick dampening the front of his own trousers. “You like this, baby.”
Another cry wrung itself from him. “Yes, yes - please -”
“I fucking knew it,” Sylvain said under his breath. “I fucking knew it.”
“You slut, you know this. You know all of this.”
“I never -” Felix shuddered - “I never - sold myself -”
“Forgive me,” Sylvain rumbled, grabbing him harder, resenting every layer of clothing he’d neglected to remove, “for not believing you.”
Sylvain didn’t know what possessed him. He reached up, grabbed Felix’s hair, and pried his head back, forcing his mouth open wider, making him stop with the muffling of his words. Every gasp emerged higher than the last, and when Felix glanced over his shoulder Sylvain could hardly bear it. He was as red as he’d been when he’d cried and his eyes were so dewy, but his eyebrows were tented, his words - whatever he could force out - were pleading, begging for release of the entirely wrong kind.
Something was wrong. Sylvain’s breath hiccuped on its way out of him. His eyes began to sting.
“Why did you go?” he managed. It was the wrong question, the wrong tone. If he’d overheard someone speaking this way, if one of his exes had asked him this question, he might have laughed.
But no, he was drawing to a standstill. He couldn’t pull Felix’s hair anymore, he couldn’t hurt him anymore.
He’d always been so good at this, so why?
Felix caught his breath, still with his head tilted, but looking away now in typical Felix fashion. He finally turned away. “What’s wrong?” he snapped, but the heat wasn’t there. Not how Sylvain remembered it. “You’re good for one thing, so do it.”
That stung. It was different from the narrative that’d been circling of late - the gossip still centered his sleeping around, but it was always Margrave Gautier is a brilliant orator despite this, Margrave Gautier is surprisingly competent considering that. It had been a long, long time since someone had gone so far as to imply that he was only good for sex, and it reminded him, yet again, of how long it had been since he and Felix had been in the same place.
He sat back on his heels and pulled Felix, objecting, along after him. He held Felix in his lap and fucked him slow, gently now, his face turned into Felix’s hair and searching for Felix’s eyes again, to express the things he needed expressed now.
“Why did you go?” he asked again. He could see Felix’s breasts over his shoulder now, but they were secondary - he had never cared so little about the physicality of sex. He brushed his hands over Felix’s arm and held his hand when he found it, unsurprised to discover that his palms were rough compared to his, still holding the calluses of a sword master. “Felix?”
Felix seemed discomfited at the use of his name - he shifted around on Sylvain’s lap, finding purchase to push himself up and slam himself downward. “Do you ask this many questions of every whore you fuck, Margrave?” he said.
Sylvain swallowed. “You’re not…”
Felix’s head snapped around to face him, finally restored to his old heat. “Your words, Sylvain, not mine,” he reminded him, then slammed himself down again, grinding his hips, seeking pleasure the way Sylvain wished he could. “Don’t play at sympathy -” he grunted - “when you started this.”
It was a reasonable request. A small part of him was disgusted at how he continued to ignore Felix’s honest entreaties when he asked, “Did you ever?”
For a moment, Felix still seemed unwilling to answer; Sylvain couldn’t bear the silence, couldn’t bear how he felt Felix’s heart beating through both layers of clothing between them. He kissed him - on his shoulder, on his neck, taking a moment, realizing how privileged he was to be holding him in the flesh again. He was raw power incarnate, pure efficiency in the form of a human being, and yet Sylvain had been given the privilege of seeing him in all his kindest, weakest, sweetest moments.
“Why did you go?” he asked. “Do you know how often I just - held that sword of yours, to know I was touching something you touched? Do you know how much I missed you?”
“What do you think?” Felix demanded in return. When Sylvain was too thrown to answer, he continued, “I told you I didn’t sell myself. Have I ever been one to lie?”
“Not even when it would have been much kinder of you,” Sylvain admitted. A knot in his chest slowly unraveled at the revelation. “So you… Have you, ever? At all?”
“Have I what?”
Perhaps it was too late for tenderness, but Sylvain craved it like he’d never craved anything before. He reached tentatively downward, realizing Felix’s thighs were still bound by his trousers, barely able to penetrate between them, to find where they joined. “This,” he exhaled, and Felix inhaled in turn.
This was how it should have been.
“No,” Felix admitted.
“Don’t go stroking your own ego over it,” Felix reminded him. “I wasn’t saving myself for anyone.” He reached for Sylvain’s forearm, like he was planning to pull it back and reject the affectionate touch. “Sentimentality doesn’t suit me, and I never planned on seeing you again.”
“Why?” Sylvain begged. It was a struggle to keep his eyes open and combat the tears threatening to overflow, but he hardly wanted to obscure his view of his own secret obsession of the last ten years. “Why are you in Galatea at all, if you’ve never cared for sentimentality? It’s not like this is a particularly remarkable territory, without…”
“Are you ever going to get back to fucking me?”
Sylvain tried to answer, he really did. He had the words hovering on his lips, but then the sting in his eyes became too much to bear and he buried his face in Felix’s hair, resenting every tear but relieved, in a way, too. “Why did you go?” he croaked one final time, and he felt Felix deflate around a long, agonized breath.
“For the same reason you’re here,” Felix said, and though he always spoke with a hint of a rasp, it was all the more prevalent now. “After a lifetime watching - him - chased by ghosts, why would I suffer myself to be chased by his?”
Sylvain hated how his shoulders convulsed, as if he had any right to cry when he had done what he’d done to Felix - and to Ingrid, too. Dimitri wasn’t so much his ghost as a borrowed shade, yet another thing Felix had been so gracious to leave him without a word.
“Do you remember - playing here, in the -”
“Don’t,” Felix grunted. “I’m here because it’s not being governed, and Leonie’s damned debts chase us everywhere.”
“So you never even think about her?”
Felix paused again. “I think more about the old man,” he admitted. Sylvain heard him swallow. “And mine. And how damned stupid it was of him to rope Galatea into Faerghus’s last stand. Of course he lost all of his children in the war. And if my father had lived, he would no doubt have said the same thing - he said -”
And there it was, there it finally was. These were the product of more than ten years - more, even, than fifteen - indeed, almost two decades of guilt, compounded and compounded again with every death that followed. When Felix cried this time, he pitched forward, stopped only by Sylvain’s steady hands. He eased him down and off, watching his hair, hardly held up at all anymore, spill over the sheets. His pants were tangled around his knees now, his shirt barely held on, and Sylvain felt every knot that had come undone over the course of their conversation re-tie itself.
“I’m so sorry,” he choked.
Felix sniffed. He covered his mouth and his entire body wracked with the sobs - and Sylvain, despite knowing very well how little he deserved it, lay next to him. When Felix pressed forward, Sylvain let him, kissed all over his forehead and down over his cheeks.
Felix had always been lithe, smaller than him or Dimitri. He’d been the only one to tease him for it, back in the day - but even then he’d been well-fed, toned instead of bony. When Sylvain held him now -
“Who were you punishing?” Sylvain asked. Felix grunted his confusion, and he clarified, “Was it you or me? When you left.”
Felix huffed in amusement. “Not everyone is so vindictive that they feel the need to sock it to their exes like the people you’ve dated.” He paused. “... Both of us, I suppose. Whether I realized it or not.”
Sylvain nodded mutely, listening to his and Felix’s labored breaths for a moment. It welled up again, in the silence of the moment - the fury with himself for doing it like this. He had never wanted it this way, not even in his angriest moments, glaring resentfully at the sword Felix had left in his wake; he had never envisioned taking him by force when he’d been pining after him in school or at war. It was all meant to be gentle, and now how could Felix ever forgive what he’d done?
“You don’t have to stay,” he whispered, bereft just in the speaking of it. Felix huffed again, more irritated than amused this time.
“I suppose you liked it better, with me gone.”
“No!” He objected instantly, peering down into Felix’s eyes in alarm. “No, I was miserable. But - I raped you -”
“And I let you,” Felix replied, surprisingly steady.
“Felix, you resisted -”
“You’re a fat old scholar now,” Felix pointed out, a degree of that old, almost-cruel tone entering his voice - and yet, it was the most soothing part of it all. He truly was still Felix. “And what did you see me doing this afternoon?”
“You think you’re so clever,” Sylvain tittered. “Okay, I’m no athlete anymore. But you clearly haven’t been properly fed in -”
He cut himself off, casting his eyes down the slope of Felix’s body. He swallowed, and Felix seemed to catch his intent.
“You - fine,” he sighed, and at long last he kicked off his trousers and un-did the remainder of his buttons. His figure was familiar like an echo of a previous life, a ghost all its own. Sylvain drank it in, alternately yearning and aroused and utterly, overwhelmingly charmed. He last recalled seeing that burn from spilled tea on his upper arm about ten years prior, but its legacy had lasted much longer than that - another memory over twenty years in the making, of a young Felix wailing even as Rodrigue soothed the burn with his magic.
The rest of the scars were a blend of familiar and unfamiliar, the familiar ones like a base coat to the unfamiliar polish. They stretched over a wiry frame, but no less a muscular one, as Felix settled back onto the bed, looking pointedly away from him.
“Well?” he demanded, suddenly back to his confrontational veneer, and Sylvain could almost imagine that it was ten years earlier and Felix had stayed, agreed to offer his virginity willingly and spent the encounter flustered and defensive, but overall delightfully, deliciously himself. “What, are you disappointed?”
“Me? Never,” Sylvain said, half-wincing. “I mean, if anyone had cause to be disappointed in the other’s body, it’d be you.”
“I can hardly make a judgment like that without seeing it.”
Sylvain bit back his laughter. “I missed you.”
Felix’s face flooded with color, twisted in annoyance and stubbornness; Sylvain chose to put him out of the misery of having to say what he wanted by removing his own pants, then lying back and working down the buttons of his own shirt. Before he could even finish, Felix was drawing closer, reaching - brushing a curious hand up Sylvain’s hirsute thigh, hovering curiously at the crease where his thigh met his gut.
“Disappointed?” Sylvain teased, only half-joking; Felix frowned. “Should’ve gotten a taste of this while it was still pretty.”
“Don’t be daft,” Felix snapped back. He reached for Sylvain’s cock, half-reconsidered, and then touched, drawing up toward the tip. Sylvain knew sex - he knew every hand that touched him would be different from the previous, different from his own. But oh, Felix’s was a special kind, rough in texture but gentle in practice, his touch delicately tuned from so many years handling his swords.
“Oh,” Sylvain breathed.
Another pregnant pause passed by. Felix said something he couldn’t quite hear.
And Felix’s voice was hoarse again. “It’s you,” he muttered, blinking quickly, visibly caught up in that sentimentality he’d so readily condemned. “How do you think - you’d never disappoint me.”
It wasn’t a good handjob. That was fine.
It was Felix, and that was the best thing he’d allowed himself to hope for in the last ten years. It was more than fine. It was a miracle.
He reached, and in spite of ten years apart Felix seemed to understand. Flustered as he so clearly was, he watched Sylvain’s hands approach - and when he appeared to realize where they were going, he presented his chest with a humiliated glance to one side and a half-enunciated acknowledgement. Sylvain pulled him closer, not quite minding Felix’s hand leaving his length because there they were, dangling within his line of sight.
Felix was straddling him now, letting himself be maneuvered the way he claimed to have allowed it earlier; Sylvain pulled him down and in, letting one breast drop into his mouth like the gift it was. He sucked eagerly at that cute, shy nipple, recalling distant young adult fantasies of doing just this if - when - Felix ever felt ready. The best part, he reminded himself, was that there were two - while he happily sucked at Felix’s first nipple, feeling it emerge from its little hiding place against his tongue, he could watch the same happen to the other under the gentle ministrations of his fingers.
Felix was, no doubt, sensitive. The whole of his ribcage shuddered under Sylvain’s fingers as he carried on until at last, he lost his patience.
“Do not,” he rumbled, as forceful as ever despite the hilariously low stakes, “make me cum - without putting it back in.”
Sylvain huffed loud enough to make Felix grunt in indignance, but at long last he assented, detaching himself from the first nipple and gazing in self-satisfied pleasure at the both of them, newly expressed and flushed red as opposed to dusky brown. Felix crawled backward and Sylvain got to watch him loom over, still cautiously fisting Sylvain’s cock until -
He was better inside, now that Sylvain could think about it and him together. He was better inside now that Sylvain could think about the clenching, wet chamber enveloping him as Felix, that ruthlessly kind boy he’d fallen for years upon years earlier, and not feel terrible.
He was still crying, but Felix was too - that was a miracle. Felix bounced on top of him, breathing headily in and out.
The thought was so distant, but it hit him fast, demanding to be spoken. “Wait - are you - I shouldn’t cum inside, right?”
Felix slowed, seeming to puzzle over his wording. Sylvain watched his chest rise and fall, charmed yet again by the faint blue fuzz between his breasts, forming a sparse wreath around either areola.
“I wouldn’t object,” Felix said, quiet as a shadow.
Sylvain breathed in, deep, deep. The air was so humid, so heavy, and his thoughts felt just the same - captured in ruby flush and amber slits and cobalt sheets of hair falling past Felix’s shoulders, swaying as he rocked up and down. He broke pieces off of himself bit by bit, not quite all at once - Sylvain watched his expression seize and tense and relax in a cycle several times before he was biting back a cry.
Felix tilted his head back and shut his eyes, but Sylvain swore he would never take his eyes off of him again if he could help it. His own orgasm washed over him, wrung from him by Felix’s expression, his familiar voice pitching upward and, overall, a very particular relief.
A weight was gone from him for the first time in ten long years.
Felix slumped forward, steadying himself on his hands on his way down as if he were climbing Sylvain’s body; he veritably draped himself around his neck and kissed him in several places - his neck first, and his chin, but then he found his lips and that was yet another echo of their shared memories. Felix kissed much the same as they had the first time all those years ago, tentative but not wanting to seem tentative, wanting to move decisively but not knowing in which direction. Sylvain chuckled at the revelation that Felix hadn’t just saved his virginity for him - he’d saved everything.
Whether Felix would have improved with practice - certainly not so talented as any of Sylvain’s other exes, but perhaps on the level they’d kissed each other before parting ways - Sylvain had yet to find out. His laughter forced Felix away, pouting, but pouting in good humor as demonstrated by how willingly he came to rest on Sylvain’s chest. Thin as he was, he was hardly anything resembling a burden, but instead a nice weight like a heavy woolen blanket, protection from the colds of Faerghus’s distant north.
He drew in a shuddering breath, swearing to himself that he would not cry again. He recalled the halls of Gautier mansion, dank and dim and empty for all these ten years, haunted as vividly as Galatea had been, as Fraldarius and Blaiddyd most assuredly were, too.
“What is it now,” Felix rumbled into his skin, and Sylvain laughed through his tears.
“They’re never coming back,” he said. He half expected Felix to be irritated with him, the same way he’d always been when anyone grew sentimental about the connections of their past.
Maybe this wasn’t the same old Felix, because instead he heaved himself onto his elbows, kissed him firmly on his lips and on his cheek, and leveled him with a very direct - and disturbingly kind - stare.
“I did,” he said simply.